Recruiting does not allow time for licking wounds and sulking. To that end, Oregon Ducks coaches quickly regrouped when 5-star dual-threat quarterback prospect Kyler Murray committed to Texas A&M last week.
Attention at quarterback for the 2015 recruiting class turned primarily to two prospects: Travis Waller of Southern California powerhouse Servite High School in Anaheim and Notre Dame commit Blake Barnett of Santiago High School in Corona, California.
Despite his verbal pledge to the Fighting Irish in November, Oregon is making a strong push to lock up 4-star dual-threat prospect Barnett's letter of intent come national signing day. Justin Hopkins reported via Twitter on Tuesday that Barnett paid an unofficial visit to Eugene, Oregon.
The competition is afoot, and the Ducks may very well have the inside track. After this week's development, 247Sports' crystal ball panelists now favor Oregon by 75 percent to Notre Dame's 25 percent.
Style of Play
Although Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly introduced a spread offense upon his arrival from Cincinnati, the style the Fighting Irish employ is vastly different from that of Oregon.
From former offensive coordinator-turned-head coach Chip Kelly to current head coach Mark Helfrich and offensive coordinator Scott Frost, Oregon has cultivated a version of the spread that is second to none.
Barnett is well-versed in the uptempo, free-wheeling nature of the Ducks offense. Santiago High School head coach Jeff Steinberg is a forerunner of the spread in the Southern California prep scene.
Steinberg won a 2005 Southern Section championship at Burroughs High School in Ridgecrest behind former Wyoming quarterback Karsten Sween, and he helped develop new Fresno State quarterback Brandon Connette at Santiago.
Former NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia recently tweeted a photo after workouts with Barnett, Connette and a quarterback with an Oregon background, former Duck-turned-Southeast Louisiana standout Bryan Bennett.
The one quarterback to which Barnett compared his style of play, however, was none other than Marcus Mariota. Indeed, their long frames, poise in the pocket and ability to make plays on the ground are similar.
Obviously, Barnett's style translates quite well to what Oregon wants to accomplish.
With both Jake Rodrigues and Damion Hobbs transferring last month, Oregon's depth chart is thin at quarterback. Jeff Lockie will be a redshirt junior once Barnett arrives on a campus.
Highly touted 2014 prospect Morgan Mahalak will presumably be a redshirt freshman if his number is not called this season. The Ducks' third quarterback is walk-on Taylor Alie.
That translates to an opportunity for Barnett to compete for playing time immediately.
Notre Dame is faced with a somewhat similar situation. The transfer of Gunner Kiel to Cincinnati last season was a blow to the Irish's quarterback depth. However, the returning Everett Golson—starter for Notre Dame's run to the BCS National Championship Game in 2012—and talented second-year freshman Malik Zaire will both be in the program come 2015.
Notre Dame also added 4-star Ohio recruit DeShone Kizer in the 2014 signing class.
West Coast Connection
Regional recruiting pipelines run deep. Oregon lost Murray of Allen, Texas, to in-state suitor Texas A&M.
Programs with regional ties offer recruits the opportunity to play closer to home. As for the actual recruiting process, proximity has its benefits. One is a prospect's ability to pay an unexpected, unofficial visit, much like Barnett's to Oregon this week.
Recruiting has indeed become a national endeavor for those programs pursuing championships, and Notre Dame is no exception. However, programs still maintain their geographic footprints. To wit, Oregon signed nine California prospects in the most recent signing period, and half of the Ducks' 2015 commits are from the Golden State.
Adding one more California recruit in Barnett would be quite the coup for Helfrich and Co. and further establish the program's presence in a strategically vital state.
Recruiting rankings culled from 247Sports' composite ratings.
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